After passing umpteen kilometers of farm fields, quaint villages, solar fields and wind farms that ran to both horizons, our swamis' train from Berlin stopped in Hamm, just next door to the Sri Sithivinayakar Temple, which Gurudeva had given the murti for decades ago. This little temple inside a capacious warehouse was a sweet space for the first of several interviews that day.
After learning about the trials and tribulations of this community of families, we were regaled with a story about Gurudeva (and you know how much we love Gurudeva stories). They explained that when he and Paramacharya Sivanatha visited in 1995, Gurudeva told them that this temple was the spiritual satellite that would radiate down to all the other Sri Lankan temples in Europe. He said it would be famed one day. They all took the Guru's words to heart and have cultivated Ganesha's stabilizing vibration here quite well over the years. They brought out photos of Gurudeva's and Sivanathaswami's visit, so naturally we confiscated them for our historical archives (promising to send them digital copies).
Next stop was the renowned Sri Kamadchi Ampal Temple in Hamm-Uentrop, a few miles away--the other of three temples in this town that we would visit. This beautiful temple (which nearly every other temple head in Europe spoke of, so well-known it has become) perched in an industrial area, but surrounded by beautifully kept gardens, is owned and operated solely by its head priest, Sri Paskara Gurukkal. He is one of the rare Adisaivas we ran into who has such a strong vibration from so much personal sadhana that he is like a walking temple himself.
Deservedly famous throughout Europe, Gurukkal and his temple draw tens of thousands from across the continent for the annual festival, with massive parades in the streets and devotees rolling around the temple as tapas. It was a little hard to imagine that on this quiet day when we had all the darshan of the Goddess that we could enjoy and a long interview with Gurukkal in his private temple office. He spoke of his dream of a cultural center, his next mountain to climb.
In Cologne the following day, we visited the Hari Om Temple of the Afghan Hindu Kultur Verein. It was a little bit hard to find because an enormous building was being constructed right next door to it in this slightly remote suburban location. It was funny. We expected it to be a small shrine in a basement, and it sort of was, though on the second or third floor of a building. Half way through our interview, we innocently asked, "Does the community have any plans to expand to a larger facility."
With a look of surprise on their faces, they all pointed out the window to the huge structure just a couple meters away. Turns out that giant building obstructing our view of the temple, is the temple! A tour was in order. And wow! This new three-story building will have a huge hall, a cultural hall, classrooms, kitchen and dining area and all the other necessities to serve the community.
Quite well deserved, we thought, by this group of people who have struggled so much, being strangers in their own homeland and having to literally escape with their lives in their hands to Germany and other countries when it became clear that they were really, really no longer welcome back home and that they would perish if they didn't get out. The leaders are all seniors, and professionals and have done something marvelous here. They asked Paramacharya where to place the shrine for the scriptures and after some discussions about direction a corner in the north was decided upon. Did you know there are fully 15,000 Afgan Hindus in Germany?